If at first you don’t succeed…

…that’s perfectly normal, so wait.

(My records show that this is the 365th kotowaza post in the series! In celebration, I decided to use a saying that includes the character 年, “year.”)

商い三年
(Akinai sannen;
“Business dealings, three years”)

Definition:

A business takes three years to become profitable. More broadly, you shouldn’t expect instant success in a given endeavor; it takes time to settle in and learn the ropes, so have patience and hang in there even if things are tough at first.

Breakdown:

This simple phrase begins with the verb 商う (akinau), “to trade [in goods],” appearing in prenominal form and acting as a noun, compounded with number-noun 三年 (sannen), “three years.”

Notes:

Compare phrases such as 石の上にも三年 and 桃栗三年柿八年; apparently Japan has traditionally considered three years a good benchmark for patience and perseverance. Contrast the mere three days in 三日坊主.

Example sentence:

「ピアノを毎日頑張って練習してるのに、ちっとも上手くなってる気がしない」「まだ早いよ!商い三年って言うし、ピアノが嫌いじゃないなら少なくとも一年は続けてみないとわかんないよ」

(“Piano wo mainichi ganbatteru no ni, chitto mo umaku natteru ki ga shinai.” “Mada hayai yo! Akinai sannen tte iu shi, piano ga kirai ja nai nara sukunakutomo ichinenn wa tsudzukete minai to wakannai yo.”)

[“I’m practicing the piano every day, but it doesn’t feel like I’m getting any better at all.” “It’s still early! They say a business takes three years, so unless you really hate the piano, you won’t know unless you keep at it for at least a year.”]

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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